Tag Archives: Shelley Long

A Small Circle of Friends (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Three friends sleep together.

Leonardo (Brad Davis), Jessica (Karen Allen), and Nick (Jameson Parker) are students attending Harvard University during the late ‘60s. As they become intertwined with the events of that turbulent era they also form a strong bond that lasts through their school years and on into young adulthood. Leonardo has a relationship with Jessica at first, but it doesn’t work out, so Nick steals her away. Initially Leonardo is angered, but he eventually adjusts and the three later form a ménage a trois.

This was the first film directed by noted producer Rob Cohen and overall I liked the feel. The narrative is fragmented and dreamlike, but it also has a nice nostalgic quality. The script is broadly written, but still gives one a good sense of what life was like on a college campus during that period. The final scene where Leonardo visits an underground student revolution movement where they resort to violent, unlawful means to achieve social change I found to be the most compelling.

Davis gives another great performance and I’m always amazed at the way he can play an effective gay character such as he did in the homoerotic Querelle, but still manage to pull off being a flaming heterosexual too. Allen says little, but her piercing emerald eyes had me hooked on her regardless. Parker is stiff and boring, but still successfully works as an anchor to the other two who are aggressively idealistic.

It’s also fun to see Shelley Long in her film debut. Her character has little to do with the main plot, but watching her portray a man during a stage production while wearing a mustache and male body hair glued to her chest is a hoot.

Usually with these types of films the viewer gets treated to a plethora of overplayed period rock hits, but not here. Instead it’s a loud, booming orchestral score that gets both obnoxious and pretentious as it makes it seem like this is an epic of some kind when in reality it’s just a simple story of young people learning to cope in the real world and the music should’ve reflected that with a quiet folk rock sound.

The film also doesn’t take advantage of the unorthodox sexual activity of its main characters. Three friends, even in these more liberal times, rarely end up becoming a sexual trio. Having this story element introduced late and then quickly dropped is frustrating and should’ve been more explored as it is the one unique thing in an otherwise derivative film that is good enough to get a passing grade, but not much else.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 12, 1980

Runtime: 1 Hour 53 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Rob Cohen

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD

Irreconcilable Differences (1984)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Girl divorces her parents.

Nine-year-old Casey (Drew Barrymore) has decided she’s had enough of her parents (Shelley Long, Ryan O’Neal) and wants to get a divorce from them by using the emancipation law, which states that a minor can be freed of their parents if it is found that they have not meet their legal or equitable duty. Her mother and father fight this in court, but in the process are forced to expose all their skeletons including the awkward way they first meet, their affairs and eventual disdain for the other.

What surprised me most is O’Neal’s presence. His career has become so tarnished by his own real-life accusations of poor parenting that I would’ve thought this material would hit too close-to-home and he’d avoid it, but at the time this was considered a career resuscitator for him even though it ended up being only a brief one. His performance is actually quite funny making this his best work since What’s Up Doc?

I was equally impressed with Long who plays completely against type. Normally she’s best as snotty, prissy types, but here she reveals a much more vulnerable side and does quite well. At one point I even felt some genuine sympathy for her, which is something I’ve never felt at any other time with any of the other parts that she has played.

Sharon Stone, who gets listed in the opening credits as being ‘introduced’ even though she had already had a part in another theatrical feature Deadly Blessing that came out three years earlier, lends strong support. The way her character transitions from a wide-eyed free-spirit to bitchy Hollywood diva is quite entertaining and she looks great especially when topless. However, the bit where she exposes her excessively hairy armpits is gross and kind of tainted my image of her the rest of the way.

The script, which is based loosely on the relationship between Peter Bogdanovich and his wife Polly Platt with the Sharon Stone character representing Cybill Shephard who became the other woman, is sharp and filled with a lot of Hollywood in-jokes. The two funniest bits are the conversations between the guests at a chic Hollywood party as well as a glimpse of O’Neal’s disastrous attempt to direct a big budget rip-off of Gone With the Wind by trying to turn it into a musical.

The film though spends too much time on the parents while almost forgetting about Barrymore who’s only seen sporadically. The story also takes too long to play out with a final reconciliation segment that is overdone and sappy and helps to lose the wonderfully cynical tone that the film had earlier.

The only truly interesting aspect about the film is that Barrymore later used this same emancipation law to divorce herself from her real parents when she turned 15 and stated in interviews that she did it based off of the idea that she got from doing this movie.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: September 28, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 53Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Charles Shyer

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD

Outrageous Fortune (1987)

outrageous-fortune

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bitter rivals share lover.

Lauren (Shelley Long) and Sandy (Bette Midler) join an acting class and find themselves at immediate odds. Little does Sandy know that Michael (Peter Coyote) the new attractive man that she has just met is also seeing Sandy on-the-side. When Michael disappears they reluctantly work together to try and find him only to realize that he may have been using both of them for nefarious and potentially dangerous means.

This is mindless, fluffy entertainment for sure and it doesn’t mind selling itself as such, but despite a runtime that goes on too long and a plot that becomes increasingly more farfetched it still works mainly because it’s genuinely funny. In fact there are several moments where I found myself chuckling out loud with the best part in my opinion coming near the beginning when Lauren begs her parents to borrow money so that she can attend an acting class.

The two leads help a lot. I always felt that Long should’ve stayed on ‘Cheers’ and her film career was for the most part a dud, but this is one of her better movie roles that takes full advantage of her prissy persona. Midler is terrific too and I admired how she really got into her part by insisting on doing her own stunts and she even has an impromptu moment where she decided to lie down on the road, which was not in the script, while a truck came dangerously close to running her over.

Coyote is good as the duplicitous boyfriend and it was interesting seeing him in a bad guy role, which he doesn’t do often, but this was yet another movie instance where we have a character that walks with a noticeable limp one minute only to have it strangely go away the next. On the flip-side Robert Prosky’s Russian professor caricature is overdone and George Carlin may be a legendary comedian, but his acting parts are never very funny.

For amiable entertainment it’s fun as long as you’re not too demanding, but there was one part that I thought was just too implausible. It comes during a chase sequence where in effort to elude the people who are after them Lauren and Sandy decide to hide themselves in two separate clothes dryers while the machines remain running. For one thing it is impossible to close the doors from the inside as they are intentionally made this way so little children can’t accidently lock themselves in. A person from the outside would have to shut the door in order for it to latch, so even if one did this for the other there is no way that they both could’ve done it. Also once the door is closed you would need someone from the outside to open it back up in order to get out and the prospect of a grown adult body being put into a dryer while it is running would most likely disable it, which makes the scene unable to meet even the minimum requiements of logic and therefore should’ve been left out.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: January 30, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated R

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Caveman (1981)

caveman

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Caveman starts new tribe.

Caveman Atouk (Ringo Starr) is in-love with Lana (Barbara Bach) who unfortunately is infatuated with Tonda (John Matuszak). Tonda is the big muscular leader of their tribe and when he catches Atouk trying to make a pass at his girl he throws him out. Atouk is then forced to fend for himself. Fortunately he meets up with Lar (Dennis Quaid) and Tala (Shelley Long). Soon more cavepeople join his band of misfits only to have Tonda and his people track them down and challenge them to a fight.

This is yet another film where I’m at a complete loss for what type of intended audience the producers were looking for. There is no nudity, no sexual innuendos, and not enough raunchiness to attract the raucous college crowd. The humor is also too subtle and spread too thin, so it wouldn’t attract the kiddie crowd who prefer slapstick and a faster pace. In the end one is left with what amounts to being one really, really dumb movie that is virtually plotless and stretches out its threadbare concept until it becomes incredibly boring to sit through.

Starr may have been the member of one of the most influential and greatest rock bands of all-time, but as an actor he sucks. Granted the unimaginative script gives him little to go on, but a more creative actor could’ve added some interesting nuances that would’ve made the part more memorable and the movie more enjoyable. Even veteran actors like Jack Gilford, who are almost always funny, come off as flat and transparent here. The only performances that I liked were that of a young Dennis Quaid and Shelley Long, who looks surprisingly cute in her cave-girl getup.

The special effects involving the dinosaurs that were created by Jim Danforth are the film’s one and only saving grace even though it’s painfully clear that the beasts on shown on a separate screen from the one that the actors are in and thus making the moments where they are being ‘chased’ by the animals look quite cheesy. Also, the scene where a giant fly lands on top of Quaid’s face is genuinely funny, but unfortunately amounts to being the only laugh-out-loud moment in the movie.

How this pathetic excuse for a script ever got the green light is hard to fathom especially when so many other good ones get rejected year-after-year and yet it proves once again that Neanderthals are still alive and well even in this day and age and the majority of them work as heads of major Hollywood film studios.

caveman 2

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: April 17, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Carl Gottlieb

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD

Hello Again (1987)

hello again 4

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Her life after death.

Lucy (Shelley Long) is married to Jason (Corbin Bernsen) a well-off plastic surgeon, but finds that she doesn’t fit in with his snobby clientele and feels out-of-place whenever she tries to hang out with them at dinner parties. She turns to her wacky friend Zelda (Judith Ivey) who dabbles in the occult, but her spells and magic do little until Lucy chokes on a meatball and Zelda is able to magically bring her back to life one year later. Now Lucy finds a new lease on things. Jason has gotten remarried to her former friend Kim (Sela Ward) and she uses this news find a new love of her own and she’ll have to do it quickly because if she doesn’t find true love by the next full moon she’ll go right back to being dead again.

This is the second collaboration between director Frank Perry and writer Susan Isaacs and while their first effort Compromising Positions was just barely passable this one doesn’t even make it to that level. The script is unable to settle on any type of genre as it dabbles in drama, romance, comedy, social satire and fantasy, but ends up being only shallow nonsense in the end. A few of the tangents that it takes has potential to be interesting, but then it doesn’t go far enough with it. The comedy is light and inconsistent with the funniest moment being the one that was shown in its trailer where Lucy comes back to life and finds her shocked husband and friend in bed together and after that there’s very little else that’s even mildly amusing.

The fantasy elements are poorly thought out and leave a lot of unanswered questions. The climactic showdown between Lucy and Kim is flat and the caricatures of the rich and snobby crowd are clichéd to the extreme. I also didn’t find the scene where she chokes on a meat ball to be a laughing matter as according to government statistics over 3,000 people in this country choke to death each year and if they really wanted to create some sort of goofy death it should’ve been something much more over-the-top.

Long isn’t leady lady material. Her image is so ingrained with the uppity and prim Diane Chambers persona from ‘Cheers’ that having her portray someone who is kind and humble comes off as insincere and phony and her attempts at being a comical klutz is annoying and completely unfunny.

This was Perry’s final directorial effort. He burst onto the film scene in the ‘60s and showed flashes of brilliance and new age vision, but his career declined markedly once he divorced from his screenwriter wife Eleanor and the stuff he did afterwards was barely even worth a look. He eventually was diagnosed with cancer and spent the last years of his life battling the disease and in 1995 even made a documentary about his fight called On the Bridge, which was far more compelling than this tripe.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: November 6, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Frank Perry

Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube